WASHINGTON – Just last fall, most Americans were feeling better about their personal finances. Now many are starting to worry more about how they’ll pay off debts as they feel the nation’s economic recovery wobbling.

Household debt is causing stress for nearly half the country, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. One in five adults worries about debt most or all of the time. If they bought something on a credit card in the past month, more than a third say they won’t pay it off when the bill comes.

The increased stress represents a reversal from last fall’s AP-GfK poll, which found increasing confidence about personal finances. Debt-related stress is up 17 percent from that November survey, bumping such worries back up to levels seen in 2009 and in the spring of last year.

“It’s not that our debt is huge. It’s just hard to make it, month to month,” said Theresa Telford, 45, a teacher’s aide raising four kids with her husband, a sheriff’s deputy. “It seems like everything is going up, but wages aren’t going up.”

Although the recession officially ended in June 2009, Americans display little faith in a recovery.

Stress levels continue to be highest within the most vulnerable groups: households that have lost jobs, people with family incomes below $20,000, single parents, and adults without high school diplomas. Married moms and adults under 30 years old showed significantly more anxiety than in the fall.

In all, more than 40 million Americans are feeling serious stress over the money they owe, whether it’s for credit cards, mortgages, car loans or other debts, the poll indicates.

The AP-GfK poll was conducted June 16-20 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide, including 715 who have credit cards. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.